Divide and Conquer: Approach Your Renovation With a Plan

A couple standing in front of a kitchen.

It can be stressful to enter unfamiliar territory in your home. How do you know the best way to navigate a home renovation when you’re not familiar with construction? Most of the time, people have a clear sense of the end goal and can imagine what the final result will look like. However, when it comes to beginning a home renovation, it can be overwhelming and negative emotions can run high.

According to the “Worry Less” Report from Liberty Mutual Insurance, 38% of people worry every day, and one key contributor to the worry is facing new situations with a lot of uncertainty, like doing a home renovation. When approaching any type of stressful situation, I always advise people to break down the situation into smaller, more manageable parts. Here are a few simple steps to ensure a smooth and stress-free home renovation.

Anticipate Potential Problems

You don’t want to dwell exclusively on what could go wrong, however, it's always important to be prepared for the unexpected. Financial worries are common and a home renovation’s costs can quickly spiral out of control, which is why I recommend consulting with an expert like a project manager or consultant who has navigated home upgrades successfully. Receiving professional advice will allow you to appropriately budget and plan for the unexpected.

An expert will be able to assess your renovation plans and let you know what to keep as an emergency cushion should something go wrong. Hiring a professional contractor for substantial home renovations can often reduce worry if the upgrade includes areas that require a specialty, like electrical or roofing. And in addition to reducing worry, in certain situations depending how large the project is, enlisting a professional contractor may qualify you for special savings on your home insurance.

Focus on the Opportunities Instead of the Threats

Sort out what you would like to accomplish with the home renovation. Expanding your home for more living space is a positive opportunity; if you're knocking down a wall in your home to connect your kitchen and living room, then the opportunity in this project is to have more room to engage as a family.

Similarly, you may have had the same kitchen layout for years and enjoy the warm ambiance it brings, but because most of your appliances are outdated it may be time for a full upgrade. Instead of focusing on the threats, such as potentially not enjoying your new stove as much as the old one, sort your worries so you know which are useful and which are not, and then focus on the opportunities, such as having a modern, high-tech, and more efficient kitchen.

Strategize and Experiment With Solutions

Once you identify which worries are productive and which aren't, make a list of ways you can conquer the unproductive worries, should they occur. Not only can you tap your professional expert (if you hired one) to help strategize, but you can also consult savvy friends for advice and recommendations. By asking around, you might be surprised to discover which of your friends or neighbors have accomplished similar home renovation projects.

It’s important to not be afraid to ask for help, especially because you never know when you’ll be in a situation where you can ask someone how their renovation went and if they have any useful tips for potential problems they encountered. For instance, you might have a friend who recently retiled their bathroom, and their biggest piece of advice is to buy a few extra tile pieces in case one breaks or is cut incorrectly in the process.

Another solution is to take proactive steps, such as documenting your possessions, to help with piece of mind in case something negative happens to your belongings or home. A great tool to document all of your prized possessions is Liberty Mutual’s Home Gallery App. This free app allows you to take a room-by-room inventory and make notes about their value and when items were purchased.

Focus on the End Game

The renovation is now underway, and you feel prepared because you've thought about potential issues and their solutions. It’s important to remind yourself that you're prepared for the physical and mental challenges that the renovation might bring. When you feel confident throughout the renovation, it's easier to focus on the end game.

Consider that soon your whole family will be able to enjoy each other’s company in your new kitchen and living room extension. Or, think about how long you’ve been wanting to rip up that old tile in your bathroom to create a spa-like retreat. When you envision the end game, it's easier to think more positively and feel more confident about yourself and the renovation.

Dr. Simon A. Rego, PsyD, ABPP, ACT is a Board Certified Cognitive Behavioral Psychologist. Recently, he co-authored the "Worry Less” Report from Liberty Mutual Insurance to help home and auto owners feel they have the knowledge and tools to be prepared to deal with uncertainty, whether it’s an inconvenience like a flat tire or protecting their home from a weather emergency. The Liberty Mutual Insurance “Worry Less” Report is a summary of scientific research from the past 20 years that sheds light on the science of worrying and how to break the worry cycle.